Bangladesh Vows to Discipline Shrimp Farms For Labor Violations


Linda Salim, for SeafoodSource from Surabaya, Indonesia

Published on
May 21, 2008

Following the recent investigations of the working conditions at shrimp-processing plants in Southeast Asia, Bangladesh is trying to convince the global market that its shrimp industry complies with international labor laws.

The Solidarity Center, a human rights organization in Washington, D.C., released "The True Cost of Shrimp" in late April, which documents extensive labor abuse in Southeast Asia's shrimp industry.

During a seminar on working conditions last week sponsored by the Bangladesh Shrimp and Fish Foundation and Bangladesh Frozen Foods Exporters Association, several labor experts voiced concerns on the issue.

Hossain Zillur Rahman, Bangladeshi commerce advisor, said the government is taking a "proactive and problem-solving approach" in making sure compliance to the labor regulations is mandatory in the shrimp industry and is working with all stakeholders to improve working conditions of shrimp industry workers to be able to compete in the global shrimp market.

Responding to Rahman, David Welsh, country director of American Center for International Labor Solidarity in Bangladesh, also a guest speaker at the seminar, praised the significant improvement in working conditions the country has achieved. However, Welsh said he would set much higher standards to encourage further improvement. He stressed that boycotting Bangladeshi products is no way to encourage better working conditions.

Dr. Mahmudul Karim, executive director of the Foundation, said that all of its members are required to comply with labor laws. The key factors that the foundation is looking at when examining compliance, said Karim, are child labor and labor rights.

Mahfuzul Haque, Bangladeshi labor and employment secretary, commented that violators are punished heavily. The department trains labor inspectors to identify labor law violations and report them accordingly, noted Haque.

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